Published By: Cindy Vondenkamp

“There’s no more rush button” Norma announced.  My mom at 90, can be described as ornery, full of faith and still a gypsy at heart.  She’s outlived 3 husbands and believes that “serial monogamy” is a good idea. With such independence of spirit, I could never imagine her not being self-sufficient.

Most of us plan, plan, plan. Plan for our weddings, our children, college, vacations, reunions, celebrations, careers and even funerals. I was surprised to find out that seniors find it somewhat easy to plan for a funeral but avoid planning for a physical decline situation, should it occur.  

Like so many, I naively assumed my parents had fully thought out and planned financially for their later years. My siblings and I needlessly stumbled stressfully through each stage as increasing need became more apparent.  Being reactionary was not the best approach. Being narrowly focused on only just financials wasn’t either. Thriving at all ages includes other aspects such as physical, intellectual, spiritual and social engagement needs too.  Looking around corners in advance would have been a better idea for us all.

#1. Know the signs-be prepared.  Adults are prideful about their independence.  Be proactive and alert to these signs your parents need help.  

#2. Access the wealth of resources and tools available to help your family prepare for the time when parents may need your help.  See the Care Plan Guide at Prepare to Talk-Prepare to Care and check out  AARP-A Planning Guide For Families

#3. Realize that social connectedness to family and friends is NON-NEGOTIABLE!  

Social isolation, especially for seniors, accelerates the decline.  You can be lonely and alone in your own home and in an active senior community too. Seek out technologies to assist in fulfilling a healthy balance for your parents, facilitating their care and maintaining your own wellbeing too.  

We keep Norma connected to her friends and family through her in room LifeShare.  She was never very good at computers.  Because LifeShare works on any TV, it was rewarding to witness her sense of pride and accomplishment when she realized she could navigate through games, faith programming, emails and more. She loves receiving pictures from family and friends that scroll, slideshow style on her TV.  With all the activity choices in her LifeShare we have more to do and more to talk about on those days she may not feel like leaving her apartment.

Best of all we can see what’s happening in her community from the LifeShare mobile app.  The Family Manager piece helps us coordinate her appointments and scheduling, send her automated reminders to take medications, meet us in the lobby for an outing and more.  As a family, we stay updated and have one clear communication place for mom, confidentially between caregivers about mom, and for us too. The LifeShare platform keeps us more engaged in Norma’s day to day life.

I now realize what a privilege it is to serve our seniors as they travel this part of their journey.  While some resistance to caregiving came initially, honor came finally.